Yes, the holidays are upon us. And, once again, Colts owner Jim Irsay won’t be looking forward to the NFL’s postseason.
His Colts have missed the playoffs for the third straight season, and Irsay likely will part ways with head coach Chuck Pagano in the next week or so.
Indianapolis finished with a losing record for the first time under Pagano. Many feel he will be let go simply because no one on the Colts’ roster has gotten better in the past couple of years. No players made the Pro Bowl this season (list of alternates has yet to be released). Take one player as an example: former Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis was supposed to be a team leader this season. He was cut by the Colts in November. He’s a defensive player and Pagano is a defensive-minded coach, so if he couldn’t keep a player like Davis playing at his peak, then it’s difficult to gauge the rest of the roster in a season that’s seen too many poor decisions and momentum-changing penalties.
Lack of player development aside, the Colts simply lost too many close games in 2017. Even with a player of quarterback Andrew Luck’s caliber sidelined the entire season with a shoulder injury, at least a couple of those close losses have to be turned into wins. Shaking one’s head and saying, “well, these players never quit and I’m proud of their effort” is no longer acceptable.
The Colts, one of the worst three teams in pro football, are now looking up at three rising contenders in the AFC South.
The next head coach on the chopping block is Arizona’s Bruce Arians. While the two-time NFL Coach of the Year (2012 with Colts as an interim coach and 2014 with Arizona) is babbling about retirement, the Cardinals started searching for a replacement weeks ago. Arizona could be considered the biggest underachiever in the league (insert arguments from Giants fans). The Cardinals, a team that was projected to win the AFC West, is going to miss the NFC Playoffs.
If he doesn’t agree to leave, the Bears’ John Fox will be fired after the season’s over. Under Fox, Chicago has finished last in the NFC North twice. Though the Bears’ defense has returned to respectability with Fox at the helm, little else has. And the defensive renaissance could be attributed as much to general manager Ryan Pace’s paperwork as opposed to Fox’s handiwork.
Many thought Fox should’ve been let go during a curious if not dangerous substitution during the preseason. Remember the Bears’ plan then: during the regular season, quarterback Mitch Trubisky was going to watch Mike Glennon from the sideline.
But in the last preseason game against the Browns, Fox started Trubisky and had him hand off nine consecutive times to begin the game. The Soldier Field boos didn’t matter. The Bears had a plan and were sticking to it.
Even though the Browns publicly stated weeks ago that Hue Jackson would return for the 2018 season, it has become increasingly difficult to imagine the former Bengals offensive coordinator coming back. No one thinks he wants to, given the rift that has developed between him and an administration more focused on acquiring future assets rather than building up Cleveland’s current roster.
Tampa Bay’s Dirk Koetter was promoted to head coach in 2016 for one reason: help develop Jameis Winston into an elite quarterback. The Buccaneers have reached double digits in losses, and Winston is no longer viewed as the team’s leader. The Bucs have to bring in someone to help Winston mature or he will be out of football in a few years.
The Broncos’ Vance Joseph can look at one game this season as his signature loss. Never mind that Denver was blown out by the Patriots and Eagles in back-to-back weeks (those are two of the NFL’s elite teams), the Broncos were schooled by the Miami Dolphins 35-9 on Dec. 3. After the game, a reporter asked Joseph about a delay-of-game penalty before the Broncos attempted an on-side kick, for which the coach replied, “I don’t think we did. Did we? Did we really? Yeah, um, I don’t recall that.”
The Bengals’ Marvin Lewis already has said he’s leaving Cincinnati after the season. It will be bad news for the Bengals if he changes his mind because it doesn’t seem like owner Mike Brown will ever fire him. A clean break is what both parties need. Quarterback Andy Dalton took a huge step backwards this season, mainly because the Bengals don’t want to invest in an offensive line, and someone’s got to take charge and stop poo-pooing immature linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Some feel the league’s dirtiest player should be out of football.
Two others possibly updating résumés are Todd Bowles (Jets) and Adam Gase (Dolphins), but player development has improved in recent weeks and owners/general managers usually look at that first when considering getting rid of a head coach.